The six best fake tans for older skin

05 August 2015

Now that sunbathing’s deemed a health risk, is it possible to fake a golden, natural-looking tan that flatters older skin? Vicci Bentley can barely believe her eyes.

Call me old-fashioned, but isn’t there something a bit hen-partyish about fake tan? You know, all bunny ears and streaky, Tangoed limbs – not the chicest look. But there again, neither are blotchy, pasty legs. Once the tights are off, something to temper the blue tinge wouldn’t go amiss. Is there a grown-up compromise?

‘A healthy-looking golden glow gives me extra confidence. I look good, so I feel great,’ encourages Hilary McMurray, 57-year-old co-founder of He-Shi Professional Tanning, which incorporates moisture-rich ingredients crucial for natural results on older, drier skin. ‘There’s no age limit to these feel-good benefits’, she claims, and I’m inclined to believe she’s right.

A subtle and gradual tan 

Self-tan brands such as Hilary’s have finally realised that subtle is best. ‘Gradual’ is the byword for natural-looking success, especially for pale skins at most risk of the less than elegant, melting-chocolate-orange look.

Lighter formulas with low-level DHA (the sugar-derived ingredient that reacts with proteins in the skin surface to turn it brown) are ideal for ‘tan virgins’ like me, Hilary says. They enhance the skin’s natural tone and it’s easy to build them up should you wish. But the best news? They’re less likely to leave that sour, burnt biscuit smell.

For best results, get prepping. Exfoliate first – especially round knees, elbows and heels – to shift dead cells, leaving skin softer, smoother and more able to ‘hold’ a tan. Apply the product in smooth, circular sweeps with a tanning mitt (try Boots Soltan Mitt, £3.99) to work it into crinkles and crannies. ‘Start slowly; a small amount at first is best,’ Hilary advises.

Surviving summer beauty 

Skin damage and how to avoid it

Moisturising daily also prolongs your tan and encourages an even wear-off, too. But remember, fake tans afford zero protection against skin damage and worse. If you want to prevent your age spots darkening, wear at least SPF30 with an extra UVA shield. There’s evidence that sunscreen can prevent squamous cell carcinoma and actinic keratoses – the skin cancers and their precursors most likely to show up in 60-plus skin – from developing.

I’m slightly amazed to report that for the first time in years, I’m successfully faking it. Ingenious new ways of application are helping – He-Shi’s overnight balm, for example, is as easy to use as night cream and St Tropez’s shower lotion is an utter revolution. Not ready to commit? There’s now a wealth of airy-light powder bronzers (you know the drill – dust where the sun hits on cheeks, temples and forehead) and instant body sprays (lifesavers for legs!) that give your skin a healthy glow, then simply wash off. Someone told me that I look well these days, so I’m hooked now.

Read more about moisturiser here

Six of the best 

1.) St Tropez Gradual Tan In Shower Lotion, £14.50 (Boots). How did we ever live without this? Slather it all over damp skin in the shower, wait three minutes (the hardest part), then rinse off. In a couple of hours your limbs will be a streakless pale gold.

2.) He-Shi Overnight Ageless Tanning Balm, £22.50 (Debenhams). Used instead of night cream, antioxidants and moisturisers firm and smooth skin, while

self-tanner gives it a subtle, golden glow.

3.) Time Bomb Holiday In A Bottle in Sunkissed, £28 ( and Whitish fluid turns bronze on skin, then blends to a healthy-looking sheer honey finish. It’s wash-off, so you really can’t go wrong.

4.) Guerlain My Terracotta in 02 Natural Blondes, £37.50 (from leading stores; for stockists call 01932 233887). Moisturising, soft golden finish ideal for pale skins. Dust lightly all over or on cheeks, temples and forehead.

5.) Bioderma Photoderm AR SPF50+, £15.80 (from leading pharmacies or, 0800 0470163). Soothing high protection for sensitive, rosacea-prone skin. This non-greasy tinted cream is a great base for make-up, too.

6.) Spray On Tights Body Foundation, £16 (Marks & Spencer). Silky ‘airbrush’ foundation that helps cover veins and blotches, but won’t rub off on clothes. A real leg-saver.

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